By Benedict Mander
Published: August 19 2008 22:23 | Last updated: August 19 2008 22:23
Venezuela has expropriated the local assets of Mexico’s Cemex after failing to agree about compensation, as President Hugo Chávez continues to take control of “strategic” sectors of the economy.
Mr Chávez unexpectedly announced the nationalisation of the cement industry in April, although France’s Lafarge and Switzerland’s Holcim managed to reach agreement about compensation by Monday’s deadline.
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Although deals were reached to buy 89 per cent of Lafarge’s local unit for $267m (€180m, £140m) and 85 per cent of Holcim’s unit for $552m, Cemex’s demand for $1.3bn was “way, way above” the value of its plants, said Rafael Ramírez, energy minister. “We respect private interests. But no private interest can be above the interests of the people.”
Mr Chávez accused the cement companies of exporting their products amid scarcity in the domestic market, as well as selling “the most expensive [cement] in the world”, with the region’s highest production costs. He also said lack of investment had left it with outdated and environmentally harmful technology.
On Monday Venezuela reached an agreement to pay the Argentine steel conglomerate Ternium $1.65bn for a 50 per cent stake in steelmaker Sidor, in which it will retain a 10...